WARNING!!! CBS isn't done with the tie-ins yet. This week: a March Madness themed episode focused on Barney's search for the girl who's warning potential conquests away from him. When I started watching HIMYM, I never thought I'd be saying this — but there wasn't enough Ted in this episode for me. When Ted's as much off to the side as he was here, the show starts to lose its throughline. (However, we can all go to to get our fix of Barney pretending to be Ted, a ruse that does not extend to retyping his standard "I'm a ghost, our love can never be" form letter.)

Nevertheless, despite tugging insistently at the tether that keeps us caring about these characters, "The Bracket" was an episode with plenty of rapid-fire laugh lines. I'm a sucker for label-based comedy, and the heart of "The Bracket" was in the labels the gang devised for Barney's matchups. In a seeding process I, for one, would like to know a lot more about, Barney created a 64-girl field to determine which one he'd hurt so much that she would stalk and systematically undermine his game. Was it Thought I Was Jorge Posada? Who wins in the classic shootout of Fake Baby vs. Lost At Sea? Amusingly, Robin gets outvoted every time, with an adorable "Damn it!"

Despite shoving Ted to the side in favor of a more publicity-friendly Barney storyline, this week's episode should encourage the commenter last week who worried that Cobie Smulders is being underused. She nails Barney's art museum pickup strategy (pretend to be losing your sight and trying to soak up all the beauty you can before the darkness falls), and she's both the architect and the va-va-voom shill in the third-act plan to smoke the stalker out by staging a Barney hit in the bar.

But therein lies another problem with this episode. We get one clever but minor time-shirt gag ("two minutes earlier" and "Alan Alda? Noooo …"), but the rest of the timeline is distressingly straightforward, even simplistically schematic. Act one: Bracketology. Act two: Lily hauls Barney around to apologize to each of the final four in turn. Act three: Plan B. No B-story, and no nuances. Call me a purist, but I expect more complexity and more surprises than that.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

- I am too dedicated to writing and posting for you, dear readers, to rewind the TiVo and watch Barney's slideshow of conquests in slow motion. But dedicated reader Tom the Dog has done the work for us. The only question is what line Madame Secretary fell for.

- Did Lily employ the services of Heloise at the Scrapbook Barn down on 7th to put together her Barney redemption journal? I hope not, because it was distressingly unprofessional.

- Barney, trying to pick up a recently-widowed prospect at the hardware store: "Now let's find you a sturdier ladder."

- Not being a Doogie veteran, I'm not aware of whether there have been previous Neil Patrick Harris in-jokes. (But wouldn't it be awesome if they let him sing some Sondheim?) Being married to my husband, however, there is a Doogie Season One DVD sitting near the DVD player. Do not expect me to remain ignorant for long.

- Oh, Cobie. Not only do you giggle disarmingly while lying, but you apparently once fell asleep while eating ribs. You had me at "Damn it!"